Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu grew up in one of the poorest regions of Ethiopia. She recognised the potential of the local craftmanship at an early stage and founded "soleRebels" after completing her degree in Addis Abeba. The handmade shoes made from recycled materials and bearing the "Fairtrade" label are sold around the world via online shops, such as Amazon. SoleRebels is considered to be the "Nike of Africa" and is one of the fastest-growing shoe brands in the world. Africa's most successful entrepreneur has also founded two other companies, The Republic of Leather and Garden of Coffee, which manufacture sustainable luxury goods made from leather and traditionally roasted Ethiopian coffee, respectively. The African e-commerce pioneer has created more than 600 jobs worldwide and has received many awards for her achievements, including the "Young Global Leader" and "Most Outstanding Businesswomen" awards.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu sees herself in particular as ‘from the other side’, since Africa is seen as a sleeping continent, not participating in the global economy. With soleRebels, Alemu established a successful shoe manufacture and later a coffee company in one of Africa’s poorest regions. For her, the contribution to the community is important since through this investment, she can count on them backing her up as well. “The kind of aid we are receiving is not helping, it is killing, we should do business, and only business!” is her appeal to the audience.